One in six 11-year-olds failed to secure a place at their preferred secondary school this year, official figures have revealed.
There were more than 560,000 applications to secondary schools in England, which is the highest figure since 2008, but 93,000 children missed out on their first choice.
The 16.6 per cent who missed out on their top spot is the highest proportion since 2010, and a 0.6 per cent increase compared to last year.
London saw the highest proportion of students missing out on their preferred school, with just 68.2 per cent being successful. At the opposite end of the scale, students in Northumberland (98.2 per cent) were most likely to win a place at their preferred school, followed by those in Cornwall (97.3 per cent).
Meanwhile, there was a slight improvement in the proportion of primary school age children being offered their first choice compared to last year. 90 per cent of four-year-olds secured a place at their preferred primary school, up from 88.4 per cent last year, meaning 154,854 young children had to settle for their second- or third-choice at best.
While the number of applications to secondary schools has been rising in recent years, the number of applications to primary schools has been falling.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The vast majority of parents continue to secure a place at their first choice of school for their child.
“The latest data shows that nearly 725,000 additional pupil places were created between May 2010 and May 2016.”
In response to the statistics, the general secretary for the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Kevin Courtney, said: “Many parents will have been anxious when their child didn’t get the school place they wanted.
“The squeeze on secondary places is the biggest in decades but the causes are clear. It is very largely the predictable result of a woeful lack of planning and commitment by central government.
“The government has reduced the powers for local authorities to plan for and provide sufficient school places in their areas.
“This can’t be defended. It is essential that local areas have these powers restored and that they are given the funding required to meet the demands of the local community. A new government must take a new approach.”